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LAS VEGAS • BlackBerry Ltd.’s new automotive operating system has the potential to increase the company’s in-vehicle presence as much as 10-fold, according to the head of its QNX automotive software division.
And as manufacturers scramble to develop autonomous features for their vehicles, BlackBerry QNX also sees an opportunity to cut out the middleman — in this case, large, Tier 1 suppliers — and work directly with the major automakers to provide the secure software they’ll need.
At the CES tech show in Las Vegas this week, BlackBerry announced a new operating system for the automotive industry that “can run highly complex software, including neural networks and artificial intelligence algorithms.”
Currently, most in-vehicle software is a series of separate components — blind-spot detection, lane-keep assist, pedestrian recognition — that aren’t able to talk to each other, said John Wall, senior vice-president and head of BlackBerry QNX.
“The software that’s in the car today, all these discrete components developed on very primitive operating systems … it’s not up to the task of what’s being asked of the vehicle in the future,” Wall said in an interview at CES. “That’s why you need an operating system like we’ve developed to be able to handle that complexity.”
This dramatically increases the range of in-vehicle features that could use QNX software in the future, he added.
“What we’re talking about here is eight or nine or 10 modules that all have the potential to be running our software,” compared to one or two today, Wall said.
BlackBerry may be best known for its rise and fall as a handset maker, but it has quietly become a major player in the vehicle software space through its 2010 acquisition of QNX Software Systems, which commands more than half of the rapidly growing market for in-vehicle infotainment and can be found in more than 60 million vehicles today. The company is now focused on developing a “software foundation” for autonomous cars and announced last month that it will open a research centre for self-driving vehicles in Ottawa.
You need an operating system like we’ve developed to be able to handle that complexity
Recently, BlackBerry also announced that it will work with Ford Motor Co. to develop automotive software, the first time it has cut out the middleman to work directly with an automaker.
Ford already uses QNX software for its Sync infotainment system, but had previously bought it through Panasonic Corp.
Wall said he’s talking to “most” major automakers about similar arrangements.
“In this new world of autonomous drive and active safety, my belief is the (original equipment manufacturer) wants and is going to play a larger role,” he said.
“I think with autonomous drive, the OEM feels it’s as important a feature as a transmission, an engine, a chassis. They want to own that, they’re not going to give that to anybody.”
BlackBerry already has a reputation for security, and Wall said the new operating system will be “probably more secure than any system in the world.”
The company also announced Thursday that it has been selected by Giuliani Partners LLC, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s consulting firm, to provide software for its cyber-security consulting services for government and corporate customers.